With an offensive core as explosive as the one the Capitals have it's not all that often the team is going to be carried by its blueliners, especially in the offensive end. But that's what happened yesterday afternoon as Tom Poti's four points (one goal, three assists), complimented by goals from Milan Jurcina and Mike Green, set the tone for Game Six and again ended Henrik Lundqvist's night after only forty minutes.
The chance for the defense to step to the forefront is well-deserved for an oft-criticized and under-appreciated group that has done well in the series against the Rangers. True, the Rangers aren't exactly an offensive juggernaut, and there's certainly the chicken-or-the-egg debate of whether the team is shutting down the Rangers because of Simeon Varlamov or whether Simeon Varlamov's solid play is proving the Capitals defense is better than people thought, but there's no denying the results. In the five games Varlamov has started the Capitals have allowed just six goals (1.20 per game), 130 shots (26 per game), and have shut the Rangers out twice - bad news for a New York team that suddenly looks awfully shaky in their own end.
Some additional thoughts on yesterday's game:
- Donald Brashear skated 2:30, picked up four penalty minutes, and knocked Blair Betts out of the game with a hit that can charitably be described as "questionable". Chris Clark can't get healthy fast enough.
- While we're on the topic of questionable, um, hits, the Rangers are alleging Shaone Morrisonn bit Brandon Dubinsky during yesterday's game. Combine that with the Brashear hit and the Capitals' reputation is headed in a direction we're not entirely comfortable with.
- Bruce Boudreau gets credit for keeping the minutes of his most important players reasonable (Alex Ovechkin skated 20:50; Alex Semin 15:50, as examples) but Eric Fehr only getting 3:25 in a game like yesterday's is a head-scratcher. We're approaching Steve Eminger-esque levels of inexplicably low ice time here, people.
- Big game require focus, and the Capitals indisputably demonstrated it very well in one area yesterday afternoon. The team was not credited with a giveaway. Not. One. Single. Giveaway.
- Sean Avery looked completely lost most of the game - this isn't the first time the question has been raised, but it's worth raising again: Is it possible for Avery to play his aggressive style and still remain in control of himself?
- It was another solid game for the Caps in the faceoff dot as only one Caps player, David Steckel, was below 57%. Of course, Steckel's two assists and +1 rating help to mitigate that dubious distinction.
- Tom Poti seemed to relish his Madison Square Garden reception. Looks like Ovie's not the only one who likes it when a hostile crowd gets on him.
- Before yesterday, Henrik Lundqvist had never been pulled in consecutive starts in his NHL career.
Here's hoping for a better Game Seven result in a scenario that seems awfully familiar. Oh, psst, here's a tip on how to get that result - glove side, high.
Win one game. Do it
four three two times.